Movie review: Alessandra de Rossi bares her heart in '12'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Nov 09 2017 12:11 PM

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Alessandra de Rossi's career is on a roll this year. Last July, she starred in the huge box-office indie smash hit "Kita Kita," which earned a whopping P320 million. As a follow-up, she stars in another project this month. But this time, she is working with a script she wrote herself. She also wrote and sang its theme song. With so much invested in this project, it is obviously going to be a labor of love for this 20-year film veteran, I thought it should be worth the watch.

Commercial director Anton Romualdez III and band musician Erika Valero had been best of friends for five years before they became live-in partners for the next seven years. One night, Anton finally proposes marriage to Erika. Unexpectedly, it was then that their 12-year relationship began to unravel, threatening to pull them apart.

Alessandra de Rossi is such a natural in these quirky roles like Erika. She could do no wrong with her on-point portrayal of a broken woman who had sacrificed her own person to make her man happy. You can really feel her seething hurt and pain. You can feel her heart being torn between freedom and forgiveness. Her scene at the dinner table, when Anton was talking to his aunt on the phone, was wordless for de Rossi, but that did not stop that dramatic scene to be a truly heart-wrenching one. 

Newcomer Ivan Padilla played Anton as such a selfish cad. As Erika said, Anton is easily forgiven for his faults because he would effortlessly play the "guwapo" (good-looking) card. Same is true with the actor. Padilla can be awkward with his American-twanged Tagalog in those cringy happy flashback scenes. But those key dramatic scenes, he nailed. This guy can convincingly throw the wildest tantrums, saliva sputtering and all. This guy can also cry unabashedly as well, letting us in to feel his pain. I guess Anton was cast this way to sort of reassure us regular guys that these mestizo guys also do not have it all. 

This was basically an hour and a half movie with just two characters throughout the film -- practically a full-length two-hander film. (There was a surprise cameo guest which was more distracting than welcome.) Unlike most of the love story films that flood the local movie scene in recent years, this is not a romantic comedy at all. This whole film by director Dondon Santos is about an impending breakup of a long-term relationship so we will be listening to argumentative bickering and angry outbursts almost throughout its running time. 

For me, it was an impressive achievement of de Rossi's script to keep us listening to these painful conversations to the very end. I actually felt like a marriage counselor with the troubled couple in front of me, both divulging their most private thoughts to each other and to me. These are highly sensitive matters couples usually keep between themselves, not easily shared with even their close family or friends. 

This is not exactly an easy film to watch because everything felt so intimately real, like Anton and Erika could be anyone we know, or even (gasp!) us. Every person watching who is in a relationship would recognize their own gripes and sentiments being expressed their by either character. Some may even wish they had the eloquence or boldness to say these lines to the ones they love for which they have some unspoken disappointment.

Perhaps because it was written in the woman's point of view, the man was shown to be immature, insecure, an alcoholic, wildly bipolar and given to fits of violence. Men brought by their wives or girlfriends to go watch this movie will learn a thing or two about the women they are with. Core values can clash. Best friends still need to adjust. Those petty faults do add up. Complacency can creep up when the mystery and challenge fade. 

If they have not done anything wrong yet, then they would know what to NOT to do so that they won't cause any heartaches at all. If they realize they maybe already doing something wrong, they should man up, apologize and make amends before anything worse happens. 8/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."